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Live Review: We Are Scientists at Oxford O2 Academy – Friday 25th June 2010

 
By on Sunday, 27th June 2010 at 7:43 pm
 

Sometimes with a band as quirky and fun as We Are Scientists they run out of energy after their first album. However, like a fine wine, our favourite Scientists seem to have gotten only better with age.

Playing to a sold out sweltering O2 Academy in Oxford they were the perfect end to a rather strange week for me and were on absolute top form. Opening up was The Whigs, who seemed to have Animal from The Muppets as their drummer, and certainly warmed up the roasting crowd with their garage rock.

Chew Lips seemed on paper to be a rather bizarre choice of opener – electro dance pop vs WAS’ rock, but they went down a treat, lead singer Tigs clearly having a ball. Keith made a quick cameo to throw ice cubes during “Solo”, and certainly affirmed the Friday night party feeling.

Surprisingly quickly 9:20 rolled around and on jogged Keith Murray and Chris Cain, the duo we know better as We Are Scientists. Their new stuff from “Barbara” mixed perfectly with their older classics and by the end of the set the whole crowd

The between song banter was as hilarious as ever – what should have been a 70 minute set turned into a 100 minute epic thanks to discussions about the Styrofoam head that was thrown on stage in the first song (sans ears and nose rather bizarrely), the request to have a hot chocolate mid set (“’cos we like to break the rules and be pioneers…”), and pawning babies for The Whigs’ CD. Yes, it really was that surreal.

Older anthems such as “The Great Escape” and “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” got the best reception (as you’d expect), but the newer stuff got some pretty impressive sing-alongs going too. The majority of the material came from latest effort “Barbara” and breakthrough “With Love and Squalor”, less from “Brain Thrust Mastery”.

The one slow(ish) moment of the set, new one “Pittsburgh” with roars of “All we want is to be together / all we want is to sleep together” echoing around the sweaty Academy – possibly one of the strongest songs on the new album that won’t be a single.

We collectively managed to confuse the Scientists with a chant of “118” (regarding their drummer who looked suspiciously like the adverts’ moustachioed stars), but like professional comedians they dealt with the chanting with typical aplomb, joking that we were “talking in code”.

Can’t Win closed the main set, culminating with Chris being dragged off by his feet by Keith, before they did the obligatory encore. Commenting that Oxford’s Zodiac was the scene of their first ever UK show (supporting Editors, in what is now the O2 Academy 2), they seemed kind of amazed at the support the sold out Academy gave them.

Closing off the encore with “After Hours” and joined by The Whigs and Chew Lips, it was clear that they’d had a massive ball on this tour – what a modern day rock tour should be – great tunes, dancing, amazing sing-alongs and all-round comedy. Brilliant.

 

Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010

 
By on Monday, 21st June 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Pop music doesn’t have to be complicated. New York City’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a great example of this. They write songs that have guitars, keyboards and drums going at it harmoniously with emotional lyrics. Yet when you hear them play live, it all looks effortless. Last Wednesday they played a sold-out show at Washington’s Black Cat, the last date on a 2-week tour of America.

The first of two opening acts, Hooray for Earth, are a fellow NYC band (by way of Cambridge, Massachusetts). A really eclectic sounding band, at one point, I thought they sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (a real solid-sounding guitar band). But Tom Petty never has synths on stage with him, or multiple percussionists: a regular drummer and another bloke who stands in front of a whole selection things to bang on. I commented to a friend that I would love to have that job, because you have the most fun, beating on things like there’s no tomorrow. (We talked to said bloke after the gig and he explained, “I have the best job in the business!” And even more funny, there was a similar guy in the next support band, Surfer Blood.) The addition of extra percussive elements made other songs sound like ’80s tunes ramped up, and I definitely liked that. Fun stuff.

So Surfer Blood was next. I’m sure you’ve heard their debut single ‘Swim (To Reach the End)’, it was on everyone’s lips last year. Even Keith Murray of We Are Scientists conceded to me in January that this band from West Palm Beach, Florida, were the talk of the town. Like the Morning Benders I had seen the previous week, they looked really, really young. But they can rock out and have serious guitar-playing chops. In addition to bringing the house down with ‘Swim’, they handily delved into emo territory with the darker ‘Harmonix’. In all the hype surrounding the Drums, Surfer Blood has been criminally overlooked, judging from audience reaction. Have a listen to their debut album ‘Astro Coast’ and see what you think. But what really made the crowd love them was their raucous rendition of Weezer‘s ‘Undone – the Sweater Song’, featuring keyboardist Peggy Wang of the Pains filling in for lead singer J.P. Pitts’ guitar playing. Two uni kids next to us in town for summer internships couldn’t believe their ears and absolutely loved it.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are not a pretentious band. Lead singer/guitarist Kip Berman is the guy next door, so white bread and sincere that just you know if you took him home to meet mum and dad, they’d love him instantly. And that’s a good reason why he and his band can win over crowd easily. There’s nothing fake about this band; they’re in it because they love making music and they love entertaining people with their music. Their brand of guitar pop is romantic and emotive, not threatening at all, and I think that’s the secret of their success. Listen to their music and your day gets brighter instantly. I liken the live experience to swallowing sunshine and having a warm, fuzzy feeling going through your whole body.

Their latest single in America, ‘Say No to Love’, continues the formula that made their debut album a success in the UK last year. (The single won’t be officially released in the UK until next month.) I’d heard the single online but wow, it’s incredible live. Along with gems from the debut album like ‘Young Adult Friction’ and ‘Everything with You’, this was as close to a perfect gig as you can get. It was also a mass farewell between the bands, and it was evident from the hugs all around that these three bands had gotten very close over the 2-week tour. So much that they joined together for a spirited rendition of the Ronettes’s ‘Be My Baby’. After the show another friend of mine (one I couldn’t find in the mess of people stuffed into the club during the show) Tweeted to me, ‘that closing singalong was INCREDIBLE‘. ’nuff said.

After the cut: more photos and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart set list.

Continue reading Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010

 

Live Review: Keane at Westonbirt Arboretum – Friday 18th June 2010

 
By on Sunday, 20th June 2010 at 7:15 pm
 

Whilst much of England was in the pub on Friday night, I decided to do something a bit different and made the trek to the stunning Westonbirt Arboretum to see Keane play to a sell out crowd. It was my fifth time seeing them, having caught them at Tsunami Relief, Live8, in Toronto on the Hopes and Fears Tour and then last February on the Perfect Symmetry Tour. Each time they’ve been better, more confident and played bigger venues.

The heavens opened as soon as we got to the main arena, set in a clearing of the stunning arboretum, and settled in to catch Everything Everything. Having already caught them on the NME Radar tour at Bristol’s Thekla, I must say that I still wasn’t that impressed with them live – though it may just have been due to the rainwater slowly soaking me through.

Next up were Portland, Oregon’s Helio Sequence. With just two in the band, drummer Benjamin Weikel and guitarist Brandon Summers, I must admit I was expecting some simple White Stripes / Ting Tings style stuff. However, they managed to create some pretty impressive indie pop, much the sort of stuff you’d expect to soundtrack (500) days of Summer or other such indie films, and were the perfect compliment to Keane.

Surprisingly quickly 9pm rolled around and Keane sauntered on, launching straight into “Back In Time” from their latest EP, Night Train. Running from side to side of the stage, they ploughed through the hits with so much gusto that you wouldn’t imagine that they’re on their fourth record in six years. “Bend and Break” provided the first big singalong of the night, whilst things were ramped down for the trio to do a stripped down version of “Try Again” and “Hamburg Song”.
Continue reading Live Review: Keane at Westonbirt Arboretum – Friday 18th June 2010

 

Live Review: Broken Bells with the Morning Benders at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 07 June 2010

 
By on Wednesday, 9th June 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Take two stars of the music world – the Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) – and let them go to town making music. Good reason the Broken Bells debut album
(you can read my review from March here) was one of the most anticipated album of the year. The two played nearly everything on the album but to take this ‘project’ on the road, Broken Bells becomes a seven-member band. And a strong one at that. They appeared at a sold-out 9:30 Club Monday night.

The Morning Benders, the support act for the night, are a young Californian pop/rock band. Their latest album released this year, ‘Big Echo’, was produced by their lead singer Christopher Chu and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. So it’s safe to say that if you live on ‘Veckatimest’ and songs like ‘While We Wait for the Others’, you should check these guys out, because chances are you’ll dig them too. A nice-sized crowd had assembled for their set. Chu realised this early on, thanking us with a winsome smile at regular intervals and even going as far as asking the audience, ‘do you want ‘Hand Me Downs’ or ‘Pleasure Sighs’?’ (naming two choices of song from ‘Big Echo’). Come now. How often do you see democracy in action at a gig?

Personally, I prefer my rock to have a bit more bite and my pop to have more hooks. But never mind me. Judging from the unbridled squeals of delight from the crowd (ow, right in my ear!) and the massive singalong of ‘da dum, da dum, la da da da dum’ erupting in their set closer ‘Excuses’, I’d say they also have a relatively young-ish and devoted fanbase in Washington. Good thing too, because they’re supporting Dan Auerbach’s Black Keys at Constitution Hall in July and will return for a headlining tour of their own in the autumn.
Carry on reading the review, catch some pictures and the setlist…

 

The Morning Benders / June and July 2010 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 9th June 2010 at 11:00 am
 

The Morning Benders from Berkeley, California, will play a couple shows in the UK in June and one off in London in July. They will also appear on the Sunday of Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park (27 June). The band is currently on tour in America with Broken Bells; a review of their Washington DC show is forthcoming.

Saturday 26th June 2010 – Brighton Freebutt
Sunday 27th June 2010 – London Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park
Monday 28th June 2010 – Manchester Night and Day
Tuesday 29th June 2010 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Thursday 1st July 2010 – London Barfly

 

WIN: See Hockey in Manchester

 
By on Thursday, 27th May 2010 at 9:00 am
 

We’ve got one pair of tickets to see Portland, Oregon’s very own Hockey when they come back to the UK in June. You and a friend can catch them at Manchester’s newest venue, FAC251 on Friday 25th June.

We’ll get in touch with winners on or just after 21st June. Your name will be popped on the guestlist and you can take a friend along… so, what are you waiting for? Enter your details below, and we’ll pick a winner at random. Good luck!

This competition is now closed – thanks for entering!

Don’t win tickets? Can’t make the Manchester show? Don’t worry – you can catch them on tour throughout June

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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